Potential treatment options are listed below in order from most effective to least effective, as determined by TeddyCanHeal's advanced software. Not every treatment will work for everyone, so talk to your doctor to determine what will be best for your individual needs. Many treatments may also be used in combination with one another or with medication.
Carnitine is a compound found naturally in red meat and readily absorbed by the body, and acetyl-l-carnitine is a modified version of it. It is involved in the metabolism of fatty acids, and is also believed to have neuroprotective properties. Beneficial effects include improvements in mitochondrial function, memory, and cognition. It is also thought to promote the creation, distribution, and activity of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important to memory and proper brain function.
Acetyl-l-carnitine is a widely available over-the-counter supplement and is generally safe to take, with only minimal side-effects. It can also be found in red meat, fish, poultry, and some dairy products, though the studies that have demonstrated its neurological benefits have all used it in 2-3g doses, which can only realistically be obtained from supplements. Research has shown that it might be especially useful for those who have not shown notable improvement taking acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (a common variety of drugs used to treat Alzheimer's) alone. It should be noted that acetyl-l-carnitine can interfere with thyroid hormone activity, so people with hypothyroidism should look for other treatment options.
A 1991 study followed the treatment of 130 Alzheimer's patients with acetyl-l-carnitine over a one-year period. The treatment was not able to stop the progression of the disease entirely, but did seem to slow it down significantly, with members of the treatment group showing slowed progression in 13 of the 14 measurements taken. Some side-effects were noted, but all were mild, and the ALC-treated patients showed better outcomes across the board than their untreated counterparts.
Four years later, a similar study compared three groups: people who likely had Alzheimer's and were taking ALC, people who likely had Alzheimer's and werent taking ALC, and a healthy control group. Over a one-year period, significantly less mental deterioration was noted in the group taking the treatment than the Alzheimer's group who was not, and the researchers noted an overall beneficial effect of taking ALC.
In addition to slowing the progression of cognitive decline, acetyl-l-carnitine may also help to improve symptoms. In 1990, researchers gave patients with Alzheimer's dementia either 1g ALC or a placebo twice a day for 24 weeks. While there were some mild side-effects, improvements were noted in the treatment group, especially in terms of short-term memory. The same year, a similar experiment was conducted with people with mild mental impairment. The researchers reported significant improvement in several areas, including memory, behavior, attention, and verbal communication.
Dementia can interfere with the bodys circadian rhythm and the sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body, and helps to regulate this cycle and the bodys internal clock. The bodys melatonin production decreases with age, which can exacerbate the problems generated by dementia. Thankfully, it is possible to take melatonin in supplement form as well. This variety of melatonin is commonly used to help those with jetlag or sleep disorders fall asleep, but it is also getting attention as a possible solution to sleep problems and evening behavioral issues (sundowning) in elderly patients with dementia. It is seen as a favorable choice by many because it has little to no adverse side-effects.
A 1999 study looked at the daily fluctuation of naturally occurring (i.e., no supplements involved) melatonin in people with Alzheimer's-type dementia. They found that many of the Alzheimer's patients had problems maintaining normal rest/wake patterns compared to their healthy counterparts, and they also showed abnormalities in their melatonin levels.
The following year, another study was published, this time focusing on the use of melatonin on nursing home residents with dementia. The goal was to not only help those with dementia get to sleep, but also to limit sundowning evening agitation that is believed to be related to sleep disorders. Melatonin was found to decrease behavioral problems and daytime sleepiness, though no significant results were noted in sleep latency (i.e., how long it took them to fall asleep) or the quality of the sleep itself.
In 2003, researchers looked at the effects of melatonin on sleep-wake rhythm and cognitive and non-cognitive functions in people with Alzheimer's-type dementia. The melatonin supplements led to improvement in both cognitive and non-cognitive functions, as well as significantly prolonging the time spent asleep and decreasing the activity during sleep, such as tossing and turning.